Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit explores the reception of ancient Greek thought in late Roman antiquity at the dawn of the Christian era, its preservation and development in Islamic civilisation and early medieval Europe, and the flourishing of Scholastic philosophy from the 11th century and beyond. Through a study of the work of thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, Avicenna, Anselm, Maimonides, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus and Ockham, a range of areas are considered in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical theology, ethics and political philosophy. The unit aims to assist students to develop an understanding of key concepts and theories developed in medieval philosophy, and to apply these perspectives to contemporary philosophical debates. It also looks to enhance students' skills in the analysis of arguments, and the formulation and communication of coherent positions of their own.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and major contributions of medieval philosophical thought (GA5) 

LO2 - critically analyse selected themes and debates in medieval philosophy, and develop coherent and consistent positions on the contribution of particular figures or Schools of thought to the preservation and development of the western intellectual tradition (GA4; GA8); 

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of philosophically effective English expression (GA5; GA9).  

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • the historical context in which the medieval era preserved and built upon ancient learning, thereby making possible the emergence of early modernity; 
  • key themes in medieval metaphysics such as the nature of being and essence, the transcendentals, the nature of universals, potency and act, substance and change, matter and individuation; teleology, causation and freedom;
  • epistemological problems in medieval philosophy concerning matters such as natural and revealed knowledge, logic and language, perception and intellect, and questions concerning the autonomy of reason; 
  • Medieval philosophers on the possibility of rational knowledge of God and its relationship to faith; 
  • medieval arguments concerning the existence and/or nature of God; 
  • ethical matters concerning principles such as virtue, natural law, freedom and conscience, duty and right, and the summum bonum

In addition, topics such as the following may also be included:

  • the philosophy of time and eternity, and problems of Divine fore-knowledge;
  • the just use of political power and the concept of right (jus); 
  • philosophy and medieval science; 
  • philosophical thinking about body, soul and resurrection.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. The unit has been designed as a blend of a blend of collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with direct instruction to introduce and draw out new and unfamiliar concepts and theories. The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. The project-based aspect relates to the research project on which students work throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit is designed to facilitate broad engagement across the topics covered, while also requiring deeper engagement with one of the unit topics in particular. The tutorial oral and accompanying short written task requires students to demonstrate skills in attentive and accurate reading of a key text, and to explicate it in clear and concise oral and written formats. The short, written task that follows requires students to explicate and analyse another text at greater length. Finally, the research essay task provides students with the opportunity to undertake sustained philosophical reading and research, culminating in an extended piece of formal writing that examines their capacity to develop a coherent argument in response to an important philosophical question. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Tutorial oral and associated short written task  

Requires students to demonstrate skills in written and spoken exposition and analysis of a text.




Short written task

Requires students to demonstrate skills in textual analysis.  


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay

Requires students to demonstrate a developed knowledge base, and skills in research and argument development.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Aquinas, Thomas (1981). Summa Theologica. (Fathers of the English Dominican Province trans). 5 Vol. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics.

Augustine (1994). On Free Choice of the Will. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. 

Boethius (2000). On the Consolation of Philosophy. (P.G. Walsh, trans). Oxford: Oxford University Press 

El-Rouayheb, K, et al, eds (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hughes, C. (2015). Aquinas on Being, Goodness, and God. London: Routledge. 

Inglis, J. (2002). Medieval Philosophy and the Classical Tradition. London: Routledge. 

Ingham, M.B., Dreyer. M. (2004). The Philosophical Vision of John Duns Scotus: An Introduction. Washington: Catholic University of America Press.

Koterski, J.W. (2009). An Introduction to Medieval Philosophy: Basic Concepts. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Marenbon, J. (2006). Medieval Philosophy: An Historical and Philosophical Introduction. New York: Routledge. 

Ockham, William (1990). Philosophical Writings: A Selection. (P. Boehner, trans). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. 

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